Copenhagen, 15 May 2020
A community of youth influencers are working with WHO/Europe to ensure that tailored health advice reaches communities, families and individuals in countries across the WHO European Region.
The Global Shapers Community, which started life as a youth project with the World Economic Forum, is a network of more than 9000 young “shapers”, who are highly educated and socially driven individuals from across the globe. In the 53 countries of the European Region alone there are 2000 volunteers in city hubs across nearly every country.
“It felt like the youth had a lot of doubts and questions about COVID-19. We wanted to help by creating a platform that would directly put experts and young people in touch,” explains Lahiru Elvitigala, incoming curator of the Copenhagen Global Shapers hub.
Spurring young people into action
Evidence showed early in the COVID-19 pandemic that young people seemed to be at low risk of experiencing severe illness. For some, that translated into apathy or a reluctance to follow recommended guidelines. For others, it was a call to action.
“In times of crisis it sometimes feels paralyzing,” points out Derya Vollings, Communications Officer for the Copenhagen Global Shapers hub. “Knowing you can take action and feeling like you are contributing is important.”
WHO/Europe prioritizes developing strong relationships with a wide range of audiences including young people, with trust at the heart of all its risk communication and community engagement activities. Regular WHO-hosted webinars provide the Global Shapers network with accurate, timely information plus a behind-the-scenes look at the COVID-19 response. These sessions also enable WHO to listen to the real concerns of youth in the Region.
Joining forces to fight rumours on social media
The Global Shapers collaboration allows WHO/Europe access to a Facebook group where members from all over the Region post rumours they encounter, report on the mood or tone of discussions on their channels, ask questions, and share photos and information as well as project ideas. WHO/Europe then analyses this information to better tailor its risk communication and shares these concerns with the MythBusters team at WHO headquarters, so as to address them.
“Shapers” also publish social media posts on their networks with information addressing the rumours they find through the Facebook group. These posts have so far reached 12 000 people and the aim is to target 100 000 individuals with WHO-sourced information about COVID-19 by the end of May.
“We realized that we, as a group, could do more,” explains Lahiru, “So this initiative evolved beyond us just receiving information from WHO, to actively participating in rumour monitoring and social media engagement.”
At the country level, local hubs have kept WHO country offices aware of opportunities to engage in community initiatives and tailor messages to local audiences in local languages. The big opportunity lies in the “granularity” of the insights and the interventions at a community level among families and those considered at-risk or vulnerable, in ways that are culturally appropriate and easily accessible.
“This initiative has helped increase knowledge on COVID-19 for a lot of youth across the Region,” reports Lahiru. “It has helped us all to actively play a part in the fight against misinformation on COVID-19.”